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A Major Federal Employee Union Is Ready to Fight for Better Pay, Benefits and Workplace Protections

NTEU began its annual legislative conference Tuesday.

Officials at the National Treasury Employees Union kicked off their annual legislative conference Tuesday, vowing to protect federal employees’ benefits, workplace protections and, most of all, their pay.

“The 2.7% average pay raise [implemented by President Biden in January] was, well, it was welcome,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “But as you’ve heard me say so many times, it was not enough. It wasn’t enough to break through and make a serious dent in the gap between federal employees’ pay and our counterparts in the private sector.”

The annual legislative conference traditionally marks an opportunity for union members from across the country to come to Washington to meet with the lawmakers who represent them. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still disrupting people’s ability to safely meet in person, the conference and subsequent meetings with officials on Capitol Hill are being done remotely again this year.

Reardon acknowledged reports that the president plans to propose an average 4.6% pay raise for federal workers in 2023, but said his union is lobbying both the administration and lawmakers to adopt a more generous 5.1% increase, as proposed earlier this year by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

“I’m inviting all of you to join me in being the squeaky wheel with your members of Congress,” Reardon said. “There are reports that the president in his budget for fiscal 2023 will call for a 4.6% increase, but it’s not out yet, and I continue to encourage the administration to match the FAIR Act and to work with NTEU and with Congress to get it done.”

Reardon said his union will push lawmakers to restore a temporary COVID relief program that sunset last fall: emergency paid leave. The program, which was adopted by Congress in spring 2021 and ran until Sept. 30, authorized paid leave up to $1,400 per week for federal workers if they were suffering from symptoms of COVID-19, if they were caring for a family member with COVID-19, if they were getting vaccinated or experiencing symptoms related to the vaccine, or if they were caring for a child whose school or child care center was closed or engaged in virtual learning.

“We’re working to bring back this beneficial program because we need it,” he said. “COVID is still causing upended schedules and family emergencies, and you should have the time and support you need to handle and tackle those situations.”

Another leave program Reardon encouraged union members to press their representatives on is the proposal from Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave each year to federal workers. That plan was voted favorably out of committee last year, but stalled before receiving a vote on the House floor after the Congressional Budget Office estimated it could cost $20 billion over the next five years.

“Frankly, the federal government is way behind the curve on this, and it’s time the largest employer in our nation steps up,” Reardon said. “NTEU is once again very grateful of the leadership of Chairwoman Maloney and Senator Schatz on this . . . We are building a strong base of support with lawmakers, and we need to push, carry or whatever we need to do to get this over the finish line.”